Batman has been a fixture in my life since the early 1990s when I watched The Animated Series. I also got a glimpse of Adam West’s Batman from the 1960s, and Michael Keaton’s from the 1980s. It was in 1995 when I first saw Bruce Wayne don the cowl in theatres in Batman Forever. And thus the Caped Crusader would become part of my life forever.
Batman has some of the most memorable stories in comics, from Year One, to the Long Halloween, to Hush. With Christopher Nolan, the character has had a renaissance on film. But he was never treated well in video games until 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game revolutionized how players engaged with the Dark Knight. No longer was it just a very poor hack-and-slash but now included a long forgotten part of Batman’s identity, his detective skills. After such a successful release, the sequel was not too far away and it was with great anticipation that it arrived last week.
Batman: Arkham City takes place a year after Arkham Asylum. The former warden of Arkham Asylum, Quincy Sharp, has become mayor of Gotham City and has transformed a portion of Gotham’s slums into a large open air prison putting all inmates from for the asylum and the penitentiary there. Hugo Strange has been put in charge of this new Arkham City and has hired his own private mercenaries to run things. The game starts with Bruce Wayne entering this new form of prison and very soon realizing that Hugo Strange has his own plans.
If you’ve played Batman: Arkham Asylum, then you know what to expect. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to voice Batman and the Joker respectively. In terms of game play, it follows the very similar formula of one button combos, and one button counters. The gadgets have been expanded, and there are more upgrades available this time around. The one large difference here is just the sheer volume of things to do. There are a number of side quests to go through while you’re swinging through the shadows of Arkham City, and many challenge maps to complete. If you got the game when it first came out, then you also received a download code for the Catwoman subplot which is concurrent with the main Batman game.
The one thing Batman is not short on is the cast of characters that often accompany him on his many adventures, and this game is no different. Two-Face and Catwoman face off against each other after Catwoman stole from the dual-identitied lawyer. Joker and Harley Quinn appear as Mr. J has contracted a bad illness as the result of the Titan formula from the previous game. Mr. Freeze makes his debut with his familiar deep voice to develop a cure for Joker, but is kidnapped by Penguin. To help Freeze with his cure, Batman must track down Ra’s al Ghul’s body, but is stopped by the League of Assassins and Talia al Ghul. The biggest surprise for me was when Tim Drake appeared as Robin to help Batman for a short period. It was the first time that I saw Robin and thought he actually looked formidable. I was impressed, and disappointed that I didn’t get to interact more with him. The only character I was missing was The Riddler, and although there are lots of his typical puzzles around, he wasn’t prevalent in the main story.
Batman: Arkham City is a very extensive game and while it doesn’t flush out all the character possibilities, just having a wide variety of Batman’s rogues’ gallery available to interact with is a thrill in itself. The main story line can easily take 15 hours, and that means you’re not even delving into the side quests. Not to mention the Catwoman subplot, this game is a game that just keeps on giving. While not a revolutionary leap in terms of game play, it is still fun to control the caped crusader through tall towers, something that was missing from Arkham Asylum. Ultimately, all the praise Batman: Arkham City is receiving is well deserved and with the amount of downloadable content that has already been announced, this will continue to be enjoyed for months. Of all the recent games that have come out, few have warranted their price tag like Batman: Arkham City has.